Posts tagged: Dramatists Guild

Dramatists Guild National Conference: #writechange – Celebrating Stephen Schwartz

by Robin Byrd

If you weren’t there, you missed a PARTY!  You missed a SHOW!  Other than all us playwrights, here is who was there celebrating Stephen Schwartz in song and song and words and music and song, did I say song?  And not just any song but songs by Stephen Schwartz, oh and Stephen, himself, sat down at the piano and took us for a spin!  Can you tell I am still excited about it?  Michael Kerker was there moderating and if you have ever gone to the ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshops held around the country, you know how much fun it is to have Michael and Stephen in the same room.  Brent Barrett and Susan Egan performed – you have not heard a musical till you’ve heard it done right, in character, full of life, exquisitely executed.  Songwriting/musical writing collaborators, Alan Zachary & Michael Weiner performed — stop playing!  Them some bad boys.  Their presentation should be a musical!   John Boswell served as musical director/accompanist; he did not miss a beat.  I just wanted to know how he knew all those songs – the repertoire was seamless.  Thank you ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and Dramatists Guild for letting us all enjoy this evening extraordinaire.

Stephen Schwartz, Michael Kerker, DG

Pictured L to R backstage after the concert: ASCAP’s Michael A. Kerker; Winnie Holzman (librettist, Wicked); Lisa Kron (TONY award winning lyricist and librettist of Fun Home); Stephen Schwartz; Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner (composer/lyricist of Broadway’s First Date)

Picture from ASCAP page “Honoring Stephen Schwartz at the DG Conference” http://www.ascap.com/playback/2015/07/faces-and-place/musical-theatre/stephen-schwartz-dg.aspx

Stephen Schwartz is one of the most generous, down-to-earth persons, I have met.  He shares his talent on so many levels, all the time; Stephen Schwartz is a national treasure.  I have learned so much about the spark of creativity and how to mine for gold from just sitting in on his talks.  As a person and as an artist, he deserves every accolade and I am so happy that we can celebrate his musical genius and let him know how much we love him…

Panem et Circenses

By Tiffany Antone

I’ve let all of my professional memberships lapse this year.  It’s not because the value I place on them has lessened, it’s because I’m absolutely living-off-my-credit-cards broke.

Every time I get a Dramatists Guild newsletter, or an LMDA listserve digest, I feel guilty.  And sad.  I consider tacking their membership dues onto my “I’ll never pay it off anyway” Mastercard, and then get even more depressed because the last thing I need to do is collect interest on membership dues in addition to all the interest I’m already collecting on gas, food, and toilet paper.

I’ve been thinking a lot about money lately.  I’ve been thinking a lot about whether the Universe is testing me or if I’m only perpetuating my personal crisis by trying to find meaning here in the “What am I doing wrong?” zone of under/un-employment.

And maybe this week’s Black Friday Bludgeon-a-thon tipped me over into even drabber waters, because I really can’t help but be so focused on the deepening divide in this country between the “Haves” and “Have-Nots”.

We are not so far from a Hunger Games world as we think.

Which has me thinking: While there are certainly movies and plays being made that address today’s big issues, why aren’t there more  being produced that tap into today’s economic and social crises?  I admit, living in AZ – and now TX (yeehaw!) – has me at a disadvantage; I do not have my finger on the pulse of American theater.  (I’ve had to let my TCG membership go as well – I miss you American Theater Magazine!)   But I continue to read books and plays like a fiend and I consider my $5 movie matinees a forgivable splurge.  I also spend (too much) time online, trying to stay abreast of theatrical conversations and to feed my artistic self with updates about what is happening.

I try to stay up to date on what people are writing about and what audiences are gobbling up.

And I’d like to see more stories about the struggles going on in the trenches.

I read The Hunger Games series shortly after it came out.  No, I take that back… I devoured that series shortly after it came out.  I listened to friends talk about how the author didn’t “demonstrate the best craft,” and rolled my eyes, because they were eating the books up almost as fast as I was.

You see, the story is gripping.  The characters are compelling.  And the issues at play in the series are indeed very relevant, because – thematically speaking – we already live in a panem et circenses era.

Therefore, Hunger Games Fever is stoked not only by the story’s entertainment factors, but by our own class issues, hang-ups, and battles as well.  And it’s a HUGE box office success which means the story is reaching people.  There are many films, plays, and books that never enjoy the kind of commercial success the Hunger Games has achieved – so I’m not arguing that we need to make commercialism our goal!  But what I am suggesting is that audiences, while still wanting to be “entertained”, are also starved for relevance… and that IS a worthwhile goal.

We playwrights need to ask ourselves, thematically, what’s going to move today‘s audience?  To make people laugh harder, gasp louder, and think more fully?  To create the kinds of worlds and characters that compel an audience to act?

I don’t want to pacify an audience.

I don’t want to be part of the circus.

I want to break the circus down and get people up on their feet!

But that’s a big wish.  Even the project I’m referencing – The Hunger Games – which had a profound effect on my busy little mind, is still “just” a book.  “Just” a movie… I don’t see people refusing to buy up bits of tabloid what-not written about Jennifer Lawrence because – as is dramatized in the story – they now see that PR is all just illusion aimed to distract us from the pain behind the “circus” of life.

Still… I’m also probably not the only person making such a connection either.

We writers are all throwing stories into the ring, hoping one will catch the eye of the Ring Leader so that he/she will present it to the audience in grand fashion.  (Unless we become Ring Leaders ourselves…)  Isn’t every story just a part of the circus until someone receives it as more than?

I might be stretching the analogy a little thin…

All I know is, I’m out here on the perimeter looking in – as many writers and artists are – observing this spinning world from my own little nook, trying to say something worthwhile.  It’s a tough place to be sometimes, what with also living on planet Earth and locked in near constant financial aerobics in order to stay afloat.  I don’t always have the perfect words.  Sometimes it takes me months to get a scene “Just right”.  But people ask me what kind of plays I write, and I realize that the one thing my works all have in common is that they always tackle something bigger than myself.

Whether my intent is to make my audience laugh or cry, I always want them to leave the theater thinking.  I don’t want to distract them from the ugliness that is around them – I want to point at it, analyze it, laugh and scream at it…

There are a lot artists out there trying to achieve the same thing: to awaken the audience.

I just didn’t realize how important that “awakening” was until my life became less about “Which new boots am I going to buy with this week’s wages?” and more about “How am I going to eat this week?”

And, unfortunately, until I can stop answering that grocery question with my Mastercard, it looks like I’ll have to continue putting off paying all those membership dues.

But I’ll still be here – applying for jobs like motherf***er, trying to write stories that really move people, and hoping that enough someone-elses want to hear what I have to say that those stories I’m throwing into the ring start sticking.

 

Dramatists Guild National Conference

 

Next week the second Dramatists Guild National Conference will be held in Chicago, IL, August 22 – 25, 2013.  For more information please go to the National Conference information page on the Dramatists Guild website (www.dramatistsguild.com).

 

Got Rights?

Erica Bennett

Erica Bennett

Gary Garrison, David Faux, Seth Cotterman and Amy Von Vett came to visit and a wonderful time was had by all!

Last Saturday at the DG’s Saturday event, I was met by the irrepressible Larry Dean Harris with a hug. Then Gary opened the session with a town hall meeting where he encouraged and cajoled and reminded us his team is there for each and every one of us, from contracts to advice to the members only portion of the DG website. Specifically, he reminded us, he cannot help, if he doesn’t know; if we don’t tell him. I was helped immensely by David Faux several years ago during a difficult time. Saturday made me proudly remember I am a member of a community and not just writing alone in my far corner of the world.

Gary also discussed the first national DG conference last year in Virginia and promoted the second coming up this August in Chicago. Much of the content will be streamed so even those of us who cannot make the trip, can watch a portion of the conference. And he announced the 2015 conference will be held in Los Angeles!

I attended David Faux’ break-out session on the business of playwriting where he broke down the DG Bill of Rights into witty, passionate and accessible terms and answered many questions. If you’ve not read the DG Bill of Rights, here is the link: http://www.dramatistsguild.com/billofrights/. Take the time to read it. It is who you are; a professional. I needed to be reminded. I find it difficult to stand up for my rights. But stand up I will. It’s funny. I realized, if I don’t demand a professional contract, why should anybody else treat me as one?

Oh, then lunch. I cannot say enough about the kindness of Ebony Rep/Nate Holden Performing Arts Center and their volunteer run snack bar. The turkey sandwich with the added slice of apple was simply delicious!

Thank you so much for a marvelous afternoon and for bringing me back to the fold. 🙂

 

Addendum 2 to Playwrights in Mind: A National Conversation

Below is a reprint from the Dramatists Guild July 14, 2011 e-Newsletter regarding the streaming videos from the conference to help you find and view  them:

 

DG’s First National Conference Videos Courtesy of New Play TV

 

http://www.livestream.com/newplay/video?clipId=pla_2a79a31d-4c43-4e0b-9381-14ea742c663c
Gary Garrison welcomes everyone to the conference and does a brief introduction. Conversation with playwright Chris Durang.

 

http://www.livestream.com/newplay/video?clipId=pla_6873f662-f252-409e-af18-1a870052bae7
Artistic Director of Arena Stage, Molly Smith, gives her keynote speech.

 

http://www.livestream.com/newplay/video?clipId=pla_7d089833-ab2a-44de-8afd-298ef47b619d
Artistic Director of New Dramatists, Todd London, gives his keynote speech.

 

http://www.livestream.com/newplay/video?clipId=pla_6a4cd002-1a97-4fa6-a7b7-0ef138316b4c
Question and answer session with Todd London.

 

http://www.livestream.com/newplay/video?clipId=pla_69b9d282-3057-4d2a-b82b-c09b6bc35ce4
Mame Hunt on how to survive an audience talkback.

 

http://www.livestream.com/newplay/video?clipId=pla_52351dcc-80e1-4d49-b15e-7843e8657473
Conversation with Artistic Director of McCarter Theatre, Emily Mann.

 

http://www.livestream.com/newplay/video?clipId=pla_9012adee-a340-40d9-a35a-20cd4ea3cbf6
Conversation with Stephen Schwartz, President of the Dramatists Guild.

 

http://www.livestream.com/newplay/video?clipId=pla_ecb4d8c5-5e30-43e4-9f79-f9f5baae2200
Stephen Schwartz speaks about crafting musical theatre.

 

http://www.livestream.com/newplay/video?clipId=pla_0631e030-f47e-4010-a06b-b42fc551eab5
Playwright Julia Jordan gives her keynote speech.

 

http://www.livestream.com/newplay/video?clipId=pla_5877629f-5478-4676-95ba-3035de5e3e1b
Conversation with playwright David Ives on crafting comedy.

 

http://www.livestream.com/newplay/video?clipId=pla_4906313c-ca68-4d5d-8000-ed092fca7620
Conversation on internet piracy of sheet music.

 

http://www.livestream.com/newplay/video?clipId=pla_e2a7bf01-e104-4452-aa5c-93b299593b0a
“A National Conversation” – a question and answer session with a panel including esteemed playwrights, librettists, lyricists, composers, artistic directors, executive directors, etc.

Addendum to Playwrights in Mind: A National Conversation

The Dramatists Guild Conference, “Playwrights in Mind: A National Conversation” was held in Fairfax, Virginia from 9 – 12 June, 2011.  This was the first conference held by the Dramatists Guild.  To hear some of the speakers: Molly Smith, Arena Stage, and Julia Jordan, 50/50 in 2020, Todd London, New Dramatists, go to http://livestream.com/newplay.  You will have to do a lot of scrolling but it worth hearing.

Kitty Felde did an excellent job of covering the events, please read and reread her coverage at http://lafpi.com/author/kfelde/  or at

Day One

Day One continued through Day Three

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 Addendum for the last day of the conference:

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

THE DRAMATISTS GUILD FUND

The DG Fund seminar with Fred Nelson and Tari Stratton covered the many aspects of the Dramatist Guild Fund.  There are two types of grants, individual (Kesselring Grant) and theater.  The estate of Joseph Kesselring provides grants to professional dramatists who are experiencing extreme personal hardships, health or otherwise.  The recipients don’t even have to be members of the Dramatists Guild.  It’s a confidential process.  And grant means you don’t have to pay it back.  This is the only program that I know of that helps a playwright in need.

Regarding the theater grant side, a rep from a theater that has received a general operating grant from the DG Fund was present in the seminar (City Theatre of Miami); she said that their City Theatre Summer Shorts Festival was happening due to a grant from the DG Fund.

The other project that the DG Fund discussed was its Legacy Project.  This project films an interview between an emerging playwright and an established dramatist.  The interviewer is one that has somehow been greatly affected by the interviewee.  The Fund realizes the urgency of creating this interview series and started with the oldest playwrights, lyricists and composers.  Carol Hall “The Best Little Whore House in Texas” playwright and DG Fund vice president discussed the feeling of just being in the room with the interviewees and the moments that were caught on film.  She discussed how Horton Foote was scheduled to be the first interview but passed away before it could be done.  Joe Stein was interviewed by Lin-Manuel Miranda; Edward Albee was interviewed by Will Eno.  Lanford Wilson and Romulus Linney were missed…

I met Romulus Linney at a conference in Nebraska, I really wanted to sit down and talk with him about Appalachia and how it creeps into my work though I am two generations removed.  I wanted to just be close enough to see that glint in his eye and maybe just maybe decipher it.  I liked him.  It was 2007 and that was my first encounter with his work and it was excellent, lively and funny…

It would be great if the Legacy Project could find a way to do the interviews (for the artists that passed) anyway using those closest to the artist.  Not the same as an interview with them but something. 

During the seminar, some of the audience members offered ways to create donors for this project.

Volume One of the Dramatists Guild Fund Legacy Project documentary series is complete and work has begun on Volume Two.  For more information see http://dramatistsguildfund.org/programs/legacy.php

*I just went to the legacy site and found out that Lanford Wilson was not missed!!!  8/11/11*

_______________________

 

MYTH ADAPTATION FOR PLAYWRIGHTS: Archetypes and Inspiration

Myth Adaptation for Playwrights: Archetypes and Inspiration with Laura Shamas was a two-hour seminar squeezed into 45 minutes (due to a change at the conference) and she didn’t miss a beat.  Laura discussed why myth matters.  Myth, she said, represents what is eternally true; it’s a tool and it’s active.  For the playwright, myth can be useful in plot, character and theme.  “You don’t find the myth, the myth finds you.”  There are three archetypal planes, celestial, earthly, and underworld.  If you visualize the archetype it is easier to use it in your writing.  Each archetype has props that stand for something in their picture, i.e., Zeus sits on a throne, with a staff topped by an eagle in one hand, always bearded, etc. – each of those things mean something like the fact that Venus was born an adult.  Laura says, “in order to translate a myth, you have to know the props of the myth and update the props for your story. 

Notes on Myth Adaptation Process:

  1. When researching myths, one should look at 1 to 7 versions of the myths because the stories can vary slightly and you need to find the one that best fits the story you are trying to tell. Document and list chronologically.  Note any important rituals or rites.
  2. Identify: 
    •  central archetypes
    •  symbols (including props),
    •  setting and other metaphors,
    •  plot,
    • transformation,
    •  psychological function (thematic): why does it matter for you personally, and why does it matter for humanity at large.

The above archetypal elements are needed to incorporate into your work to update and keep the elements that will make the story mythic.

Laura gave a list of Myth references books.  Some of the books are “The Power of the Myth” Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, “The Heroine’s Journey” Maureen Murdock.  Even though, Laura got through everything, we still wanted more…

For more information about Laura Shamas visit http://laurashamas.com/.  Laura is also co-founder with Jennie Webb of the Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative (LAFPI).

Day Three: Playwrights in Mind: A National Conversation – part four?

What will it take to have gender parity in America?  Julia Jordan says lots of local, grassroots groups are springing up – like LAFPI.  Collectively, they hold a lot of power.  But not as much as artistic directors.  They have the power to break the cycle.  Look at the Blackburn Award winners and runners up who’ve never had a production.  AD’s can aggressively go out there and decide to produce work by women and they won’t be hurt artistically or economically.

Sheri Wilner says AD’s are choosing playwrights not plays.  We need to raise their conscience – take it to the streets and ticketbuyers.

Laura Shamas says she spent a year going to nothing but plays by women.  If someone asks her to resubscribe to a theatre season, she says “no” unless they’ll do more shows by women.  Economic information.

What can I do if I live in a tiny town?  Jordan says it’s almost a PR war.  You’d be hard pressed to find an artistic director who doesn’t know the “right” answer when it comes to the question of playwrights of color.  Not so with gender.  Add to the conversation with those artistic directors, this is something people have thought about and there IS a right answer.  The numbers are so glaring, it cannot be ignored.  Write letters, don’t give them your money.  And it’s not just playwriting.  It’s about all the arts, beyond the arts. 

Sheri says there should be a wider net.  A study looked at children’s books: 33% have a lead female character; 100% have lead male characters.  We need to start early.

Laura says we were so inspired in LA by the east coast work, they did their own study, there’s a listing of plays by women on the website, and a blog as well.  Start a festival!  Address it creatively.  There are LAFPI “agents” who reach out to theatres to ask, “how can we get you to consider more plays by female playwrights.  Mixers.  You can do this in your hometown.  You’d be surprised what you can do with some cocktails. 

Marsha Norman says every woman has to help another woman.  There’s an infinite amount of “antelope” out there – we can be in the business of generosity.  Why do the stories of women need to be told?  Not just because they’re stories of women.  We need to hear the stories of all the people here on earth if we’re to live here with any semblance of compassion and understanding.  Every story that’s there to be told has to find its way to the stage.  People in power have to stop telling the same damn story again and again on the American stage.  We also have to get our own body of work done.  And make it possible for people to come after us.

When Primary Stages did a season of plays by women, it was their lowest grossing season…it was also the season after the market crash.  But did women get blamed for bad sales?  Playwrights Horizons did really well with female playwrights.  Last year, nearly 40% of the plays in NYC were by women, and many were hits.

How about cross-discipline boycotts?  Dancers boycotting theatres that don’t do plays by women.  Is there a Dramatists Guild policy on gender parity?  Marsha said if that’s what’s needed, we’ll do it.

Marsha says the “afraid” part is a huge part of it.  Be not afraid.  Because what?  It’s gonna get worse?  Her two Broadway producers kept asking whether she’d seen any Tony nominated shows.  She said no.  “In a season where’s no work by women, I’m not going.”  Our mouths have to open.  Create an organization, be the artists telling stories who go to the White House. 

Parity: Julie says she met with funding organization who told her what they did for writers of color.  No quotas.  Instead said, “we just want to see the numbers…how many did you produce…just for our own information.”  Suddenly more works by writers of color were getting done.  Something similar could be down the line for women.  It starts with data, which is being compiled now and being available for anyone who wants them.

Day Three: Playwrights in Mind: A National Conversation – part three

Self-Production Primer: Team Building – Roland Tec

Roland’s rules about producing:

The biggest challenge: writing is solitary.  In order to become an effective producer, fight against natural tendency to hide in the corner.  Producing is about gathering people together, getting a team of people to work at their peak.  Producing is a creative act.

Get a notebook.  Takes notes.  The minute you start producing, every conversation moves it forward – or back.  Take notes on every email, meeting, etc.  Time is in short supply.  Follow up quickly and effectively. 

The “all in” rule: when you’re sending someone an email or leaving a phone message, include all the necessary information.  Otherwise you slow down what needs to get done. 

Clarify your goals: what’s your objective for this production?  Is your goal to break even?  Have a commercial success?  If you don’t know before you begin, hard to access your success at the end.

Find a producing partner.  You can’t write and produce at the same time. 

We often think: who can help?  Ask another question: how can every person in my life help?  Everyone can offer something to the production.  Find the right thing they can do.  Some it may be money. Others may introduce you to other people.  Others will be your greatest cheerleader.  Or a great actor.  Or teaches at a university and can get you student interns.  Start thinking about finding ways in which the people in your world can become involved in your dream.

Scheduling: can’t start without your director.  You want to make sure you have the right director, one who understands your show.  If you have any reservations, keep looking.

Pre-production tasks: (2-6 months) Book the venue, raise the funds, hire the cast and publicist and crew (when hiring crew, delegate whenever possible – let your lighting designer hire everybody else in lighting, etc.), sign and file all union and legal paperwork, obtain the insurance.

Production tasks: rehearsing to performance level, build set and costumes, loading in, hanging and focusing the lights, rolling out the PR in all its forms (press release must drop at least six weeks prior to first performance), box office (never too early to start taking people’s money) and house management

Post: pay bills, strike set, return borrowed materials, assemble a clippings book (good press agent will do this for you, but they may miss something) – every mention in the press is there; assess financials; gather the team to say goodbye and thank you.  Followup: what were your goals?  Start assessing the success or failure or in between during the run of the show.  If you want to move the show, you need to know early.  Decide who’s on your decisionmaking team who’ll sit down with you to decide about moving the show. 

Have a production office (your living room?) where people can meet, leave packages, etc.  One central place. 

Casting: in conjunction with director.  A good director should have a way that he/she likes to cast.  If using Equity actors, must notify Equity before casting the show.  There are rules about casting Equity actors.  When you start casting the show, that’s the beginning of your PR campaign.  Actors are great marketers – talking up your show after reading the sides.  The way you run your auditions is having an impact on how folks perceive the production.  If they’re sitting around for seven hours to be seen for five minutes, forget it.  Schedule appointments in 15 minute intervals.  Your auditions are the first time you’re engaging with the public.  Be organized.  Don’t run long.  Make people feel taken care of.  Never give out roles.  People value the things they have to work for.

Day Three: Playwrights in Mind: A National Conversation – part two

Self-Production Panel: War Stories

Larry Dean Harris, Kathleen Warnock, Roland Tec

You are the one who is the most passionate about your work.  Protect your own work.  If it’s not right, you have the right to pull out.  No production is better than a bad production.  Don’t work with people who’ve already screwed you over.  When someone shows you who they are, trust that.  Work with people who like what you do.  Don’t rush casting.

PR lessons: Do not count on reviews to fill your house.  Sometimes reviewers don’t even show up.  And even if they do, the review just doesn’t have the same impact it used to.  (Reviews are good for an actor and writer for career building.)  Build an audience your own way.  New media is the way to go.  Having a PR person is the first wing of your attack.  How about a YouTube trailer?  Postcards are being used less often (except in festivals) because of new media.  But business card sized handouts are becoming popular.

Don’t count on your publicist to fill your house.  But look for the thing that’s unique about your show – it gives your publicist something to sell.  Good pictures are helpful online.  Constant Contact is helpful.  Create an event on Facebook, cultivate an individual blogger.  You first contact your personal people, then media folks you know, then start emailing reporters you don’t know, and go to the festival bar and hand out postcards or fliers.

Go out and find your audience: whatever it is about your play that will drive people to the theatre.  For a Bible play, Larry went to churches, talked to pastors and got church groups to come.  For his play about alzheimers, he went after those groups.

Venue: putting your show in the appropriate venue can be key.  Send your director to the walk thru so they know what they’re facing.  And learn to live with it.  Choose the venue with the smallest number of seats…then you’ll have a sellout.  Get your feet wet the first time.  Learn on someone else’s time: volunteer to be on someone else’s show.  Learn from their mistakes.  Find a buddy: do their show, then yours…and learn.  Go see other folks’ shows; talk to people who’ve produced in that space.  They’ll tell you what to put in your contract.  And tell you about the things you don’t know: the rockband rehearsing next door, the parking lot that fills up from restaurant patrons down the street, the helicopters that fly overhead, the pipes that bang…  Be aware that if you’re sharing space with other productions, you may have laughter next door during your serious drama.  And their intermission becomes part of your show.

Think about non-traditional spaces – the front porch of a house, a tent.  The venue can be an ad for your play.

Day Three: Playwrights in Mind: A National Conversation

Self -Production Primer; Brass Tacks – Roland Tec

Here’s a few thoughts about paying for your self-production:  hold a fundraiser party.  Roland Tec’s formula is that you invite a certain number of people (A) and ask for a set amount, say $50 (B), but only ten percent (.1) of those people show up.  A x B x .1 = projected revenue.  So if you invited 235 people and asked for 50 bucks, you’d make $1,175.  Throw a good party.  Do excerpts, but NOT the entire play.

Ticket sales: here’s the formula for estimating how much you’ll make from ticket sales.  A = number of seats in house; B = total number of scheduled performances; C = average ticket price

AxBxcX.4 (40% capacity) = ticket sales

WordPress Themes